Republican presidential candidates have been quick to criticise President Barack Obama’s Middle East strategy in the wake of the attacks in Paris that left at least 129 people dead.
On Saturday, the front-running Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina all slammed Obama for not going far enough to curb the influence and strength of ISIS, the extremist group that claimed responsibility for the attack.
Republicans were also quick to prescribe their own solutions to the conflict in the Middle East.
And amid reports that a Syrian migrant was among the bombers, candidates called for greater border security, escalating strikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and limiting the number of Syrian refugees the United States admits annually.
Here’s how the 2016 candidates are reacting to the Paris attacks:
Real-estate mogul Donald Trump
At a campaign rally in Texas on Saturday, Trump suggested that Parisians may have been able to limit the damage of the attack if gun restrictions were relaxed.
“When you look at Paris, you know, the toughest gun laws in the world, nobody had guns except for the bad guys, nobody,” Trump said. “Nobody had guns, and they were just shooting them one by one.”
Trump also said Obama should limit the number of refugees that the US lets in.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson
Speaking with reporters on Friday in Florida, Carson said that if he were elected president, he would likely deploy ground troops to fight ISIS.
“Boots on the ground would probably be important,” Carson said, according to MSNBC.
Carson also warned of the danger of extremists infiltrating the ranks of refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East.
“If we’re going to be bringing 200,000 people over here from that region — if I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn’t infiltrate that group of people with my people, that would be almost malpractice,” Carson said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida)
In a video on Saturday, Rubio suggested that the US needs to take stronger action against ISIS, saying the Paris attacks represent a “clash of civilizations” between Western countries and extremists.
“The attacks on Paris are a wake-up call. A wake-up call to the fact that what we are involved in now is a civilisation al conflict with radical Islam,” Rubio said.
“They literally want to overthrow our society and replace it with their radical, Sunni Islamic view of the future. This is a clash of civilizations. And either they win or we win.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R)
During a radio interview on Friday with Hugh Hewitt, Bush said the US needs to reevaluate how it looks at ISIS and needs to coordinate more closely with European allies and share intelligence.
“I’m not surprised. This is a war being created by Islamic terrorists. It’s not a law enforcement operation. And the mindset that, in our country, at least, needs to change to recognise it for what it is,” Bush said. “This is an organised effort to destroy western civilisation.”
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina
In a speech on Saturday in Florida, Fiorina railed against Obama, referencing an interview this week in which Obama said ISIS was not gaining territorial strength in the Middle East in part because of US-led air strikes.
“I am angry. Angry that just yesterday morning, hours before the Paris attacks began and against all the evidence, President Obama declared ISIS ‘contained’ and took a victory lap,” Fiorina said, according to a transcript. “They are not a JV team, Mr. President. They are not contained. They are at our shores and their measure of victory is the body count.”
Fiorina also took a subtle swipe at Trump for his assertion that he knows more about ISIS than US generals.
“One candidate in this race has said he knows more about ISIS than our generals. He is wrong and deeply misguided,” Fiorina said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Cruz said Obama’s unwillingness to say the US is at war with “radical Islamic terrorism” underscores the fact that the US is not doing enough to destroy ISIS.
“As long as we have a commander in chief unwilling even to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’ we will not have a concerted efforts to defeat these radicals before they continue to murder more immigrants, whether Europeans, or Israelis, or Americans,” Cruz told Fox News on Saturday.
In the same interview, Cruz suggested the US should only accept Christian refugees seeking asylum in the United States and should resettle others in Middle Eastern countries.
“It makes no sense whatsoever to for us to be bringing in refugees who our intelligence cannot determine if they are terrorists here to kill us or not. Those who are fleeing persecution should be resettled in the Middle East and majority Muslim countries,” Cruz said. “Now, on the other hand, Christians who are being targeted for genocide or persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R)
Huckabee put out a statement on Saturday slamming Obama’s handling of crises in the Middle East and even taking a slight dig at the French government.
“We are clearly not dealing with leashed animals or with a JV team. We’re dealing with a threat to Western civilisation,” Huckabee said. “During the debate last week, I stated that we should not admit those claiming to be Syrian refugees and was condemned by the left for that position. I was right and the events in Paris affirm that. Even the far left and politically correct government of France has closed its borders.”
Huckabee’s statement also called for the immediate end to the Iranian nuclear deal and the establishment of a NATO-led coalition to “aggressively destroy” ISIS.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania)
Speaking in Florida, Santorum called for an escalated bombing campaign against ISIS, saying the extremist group is “fighting the United States and winning.”
“You saw what happens when you toy with a tiger, and ISIS is a tiger. They’re serious, they want to win. They’re serious about what they want to accomplish, we’re not,” Santorum said. “And so we’re sitting around nibbling at them, that gives them the opportunity to be able to claim legitimacy. Why? Because they’re fighting the United States and they’re winning.”
Santorum also took a shot at Rubio, attempting to equate Rubio’s youth with Obama’s.
“Do we need another young, inexperienced president to come into office at a time when the world is on fire?” he said.
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